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Nevada Wonk

Mitt Romney visits Las Vegas to campaign, fundraise

Romney meets UNLV Students

Steve Marcus

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney listens to a question from a reporter after meeting with students at the UNLV Student Union Monday, May 16, 2011.

Romney meets UNLV Students

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney answers questions from reporters after meeting with students at the UNLV Student Union Monday, May 16, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Nevada treated Mitt Romney well Monday. He raised more than $10 million here in a single day of fundraising.

The donations came from all across the country, but Romney used the Las Vegas Convention Center as his base of operations.

The presumed presidential candidate picked Nevada because it's an early voting state and he "wanted to show (his) attention and interest," Romney said.

He also noted that President Barack Obama discouraged people from visiting Las Vegas during the recession, a statement Romney called "an outrage."

About 800 people gathered in a space the size of two football fields to call supporters and ask them to donate to Romney's presidential campaign. (Romney hasn't officially announced that he is running to be the Republican presidential nominee but hinted that an announcement is coming.) The former governor of Massachusetts also took to Facebook to solicit donations.

He called his double-digit take "heartening and encouraging."

"It gives us the boost we need in this early stage," he said.

Democrats questioned some of the fundraisers Romney used. Among the reported solicitors were several Romney friends and businessmen who have been accused of shady dealings.

For instance, a development company owned by John Rood, Romney's Florida chairman, was implicated in a scandal in which Jacksonville city officials were accused of using their influence to sway a land purchase agreement.

John Rakolta, another Romney fundraiser, donated to the political campaign of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who later resigned in light of felony perjury, obstruction of justice and corruption charges. Rakolta agreed to loan Kilpatrick's family $60,000 while he was is prison, according to the Detroit News, but Rakolta later reconsidered and chose not to send the money.

Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets, admitted to purchasing a tax shelter, costing the U.S. Treasury an estimated $300 million in revenue, and agreed to pay back taxes on it.

While Romney supporters used cell phones and laptops to contact donors, Romney slipped away to meet with a dozen students, many of them members of the College Republicans, at UNLV. Romney brought them In-N-Out burgers to break the ice.

He outlined his economic recovery plan for the group, then took their questions about how he would create jobs as president. Almost all of the students said they struggled to find work and worried about securing jobs after graduation.

"I happen to like the president. He's a nice guy," Romney said. "But I don't think he understands what's going to get the economy going again."

Romney said the only way to jumpstart the economy is to reduce the size of government and boost the private sector. He accused Obama of creating only public-sector jobs, which add to the national deficit.

The government's "appetite is more voracious than yours," Romney told the students as they picked half-heartedly at their cheeseburgers.

CORRECTION: This article originally said John Rakolta donated and loaned millions of dollars to former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Rakolta donated the legal limit to Kilpatrick's campaign and contemplated loaning his family money but later reconsidered. | (May 23, 2011)

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